In a big blow to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Congress candidate Ahmed Patel beat the BJP nominee in a bitterly fought Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat after late night dramatic developments saw the Election Commission reject the votes of two dissident MLAs of the main opposition party for violating electoral rules.
Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi beat Balwantsinh Rajput, till recently the party's chief whip in the state Assembly before defecting to BJP, polling 44 votes, in the first RS polls in Gujarat in two decades which saw a contest instead of official candidates of major parties getting elected unopposed. Rajput secured 38 votes.
BJP chief Amit Shah also made his maiden entry into the house of elders and so did party nominee and Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani, clinching 46 votes each, an EC official said.
The counting was started at 1 am on Wednesday and result was out within hours.
“This is not just my victory. It is a defeat of the most blatant use of money power, muscle power and abuse of state machinery,” Patel, who secured a fifth Rajya Sabha term after the tough electoral fight, tweeted after his victory.
I am happy and I thank my party leadership, my MLAs, party’s rank and file who worked like a family. It was a tough election which we wonAhmed Patel, Congress
A defeat for Patel, apart from being seen as a personal setback to Sonia, would have left Congress rank and file hugely demoralised in a state where Assembly elections are to take place later this year.
It is not a victory of congress party alone or of our senior leader Mr Ahmed Patel. It is a victory of truth.It is a defeat of forces which wanted to misuse muscle and money power. It is an eye opener for BJPRandeep Surjewala, Congress leader
The EC’s decision to cancel the votes of two Congress MLAs brought down the requirement for an outright victory for a candidate to 44 from 45. Ahmed Patel secured 44, but would have won with even lesser number of votes given the fact that Rajput could clinch only 38.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said BJP would legally challenge the EC's decision rejecting the votes of two Congress MLAs who had backed his party. The issue is expected to rock the parliament also.
Before counting was taken up following the Election Commission's order rejecting the votes cast by Bholabhai Gohil and Raghavjibhai Patel for allegedly showing their ballots to Amit Shah in violation of rules, a high-voltage drama unfolded at Nirvachan Sadan, the poll panel's headquarters in New Delhi. TV footages, however, showed that Patel displayed his ballot to an unidentified person present in the voting hall.
Congress’ media in-charge Randeep Surjewala and spokesman Shaktisinh Gohil had earlier claimed the two disgruntled MLAs had shown their ballots to Shah.
The poll panel passed the order after viewing the video recording of the voting process, saying the two electors had “violated the voting procedure and secrecy of ballots.”
The usually quiet polls for the upper chamber of Parliament turned acrimonious and chaotic after the Congress approached the Election Commission demanding cancellation of the votes of Gohil and Patel for having shown the ballots to people other than the party's authorised representatives.